It’s 10 years since the passage of the Lagos State Special Peoples’ Law (SPL) by the Babatunde Raji Fashola’s administration. The law is a guidance document to ensure the protection of the rights of persons with disabilities in the state and it also provides for the establishment of the Office for Disability Affairs, to ensure disability issues are adequately taken care of.
The SPL prohibits Discrimination and Harmful Treatment as well as cruelty and inhuman Treatment of Persons with Disabilities. It also provides for the rights of PWDs to health, education, work and employment, freedom of communication, communal life and participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport.
It also makes Provisions for; Adequate Standard of Living and Social Protection, Provision of Facilities at Public Building, Situation of Risk and Humanitarian Emergencies, and Rights of Children with disability.
To assess the impact of the law since its 10 years of existence, Blessing Oladunjoye spoke with stakeholders within the disability community to ascertain if the law has helped to advance the rights and improve access of persons with disabilities to services. The key focus areas of the assessment are; Access to Health Care, Employment and End to Discrimination.
Access to Health Care
Barr. Lukman Bolarinwa, Chairman, Nigeria Association of the Blind, NAB, Lagos State Chapter explained that, “the law provides for free healthcare in all Lagos State Healthcare facilities, but PWDs cannot access this. However, what is the status of the healthcare service as a whole in the state. I can’t say it is adequate or inadequate, but that is also responsible for the reason PWDs do not have access to free healthcare.
Bolarinwa also noted that, “there is improvement regarding general government intervention, because there is a health insurance scheme that the government is doing and some slots are given to PWDs.
“The regular healthcare condition is taken care of but when it gets to specific healthcare needs as a result of different disabilities, because some require specific healthcare on a regular basis, the scheme doesn’t capture that.”
On his part, Mr. David Anyaele, Executive Director, Centre for Citizens with Disabilities, CCD, who spoke at CCD’s commemoration of the 10th anniversary of the passage of the law as reported by the Guardian, had applauded the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu for providing health insurance scheme for 2,000 PWDs.
Anyaele however noted that it is a welcome development but the number of beneficiaries should be increased because there are over two million PWDs in the state.
Particularly about the law, “Anyaele said that the PWDs had been unable to access healthcare, particularly free medical care provided by the law, which is yet to be implemented by the Ministry of Health.”
Meanwhile, a communique on the state of affairs of PWDs in Lagos, issued by the Joint National Association of Persons with Disabilities, JONAPWD and Disability Cluster Heads in the State, said “disability organizations in the State observed the insensitivity of the Lagos State Health Insurance program to specific disability concerns such that the needs of persons with albinism, persons with various intellectual disabilities, and those with developmental challenges are not properly included.”
Access to Employment
The SPL provides that “all employers of labour employing up to 100 persons shall reserve at least 1% of such workforce for qualified persons with disability” but Lukman Bolarinwa believed that employment for PWDs in the state has been a factor of ‘who knows who’.
Bolarinwa said, “during Governor Akinwumi Ambode’s era, he declared massive recruitment of PWDs into the public service and qualified PWDs were recruited. But again, this is an individual’s action, how has the successive government comply with the provision of the law to ensure PWDs are in employment”
Speaking further, the NAB Lagos Head said that, “we can’t say employment for PWDs is not happening, but we can’t affirm that it is in-line with the provision of the law. Ministries, Departments and Agencies, MDAs are not announcing their new recruits and we cannot ascertain that they’re meeting with the reserved 1% for PWDs.”
End to Discrimination
Speaking with Blessing Oladunjoye, David Anyaele noted that, “our study found that there is still discrimination against PWDs at state and individual levels.”
He noted that the continuous discrimination and stigmatization of PWDs means that “efforts need to be made to know the key drivers of discrimination so that it can be adequately addressed.”
Anyaele also lamented that PWDs have not been reporting cases of violation against them, which has caused the discriminations and violation to increase.
He thereafter reminded PWDs that the law provides that, “no person with disability shall be discriminated against on the ground of his or her disability by any person or institution in any manner or circumstances whatsoever.”
He also assured that PWDs could report any case of violation to CCD for pro-bono legal service.
Barr. Lukman Bolarinwa who believed that there’s gross discrimination against PWDs in the state noted that the Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs, LASODA has a duty to create more awareness on disability issues with a view to end discrimination.
Governments’ Disposition to Disability Issues
The disability community believes that the successes and failures that the SPL has recorded are based on the disposition of various administrations to disability issues.
David Anyaele noted that, “every administration has core areas of focus, unfortunately the THEMES Agenda of the Babajide Sanwo-Olu led administration was not framed to incorporate disability issues.
“There are no indicators to show that the THEMES Agenda is favourable to PWDs and this administration has not demonstrated the kind of commitment and political will expected to mainstream disability-inclusion in its activities.”
Lukman Bolarinwa who noted change in administration is a norm, opined that, “what we have is as a result of individual’s disposition to the law not necessarily because of the law itself.
He also noted that “the gap created by the change in governance of LASODA has a way of working for or against the achievements or performance of the Lagos State Government regarding disability inclusion.
“Every administration needs to have technocrats on disability issues to ensure disability inclusion in all spheres.”
The Law Has Not Attain Its Maximum Potentials – LASODA GM
Mr. Dare Dairo, General Manager, Lagos State Office for Disability Affairs, LASODA affirmed that, “there is a wide gap between what the law sets to achieve and what is currently obtainable, but we’re currently working on focusing on the little things that will create a wider ripple effect and get people more conscious on the rights of persons with disabilities
“After that, we will engage on more complex issues that speak to policies, programmes and services provided by the government and the private sector,” he added.
Giving clear illustrations on what the agency is doing, Mr. Dairo explained that, “in the area of social inclusion, we are designing a blue badge and reverse sticker on vehicles, for PWDs who have, and it would be serialized to each person who is registered with LASODA.
“This will help to recognize and ensure access for PWDs and it is also a way to create awareness about the Lagos State special peoples’ law.”
The LASODA GM also reiterated that, “the conversation is ongoing with disability cluster heads to improve the Health Insurance Scheme as a way to ensure it captures the health needs of PWDs.”
He however noted that a lot of PWDs are already benefiting from the health insurance scheme, which he believed has come to stay as part of the healthcare architecture of Lagos State.
Is SPL Due for Review?
Barr. Bolarinwa believed that “the SPL is due for review because some issues are arriving from the implementation, some parts are calling for clarification and expansion.
“During the review, all these issues like ‘what is public’ can be brought on board and it would help to address any form of misconception or hindrances,” he added.
Mr. Anyaele however believes that there is no need to review the law yet, as there are needs to ensure its full implementation to the benefits of all PWDs in the state.
Recommendations on Disability-Inclusion in Lagos
JONAPWD and the Cluster associations in the communiqué issued regarding the state of affairs of PWDS in the state recommended that, “Mr. Governor should constitute the Governing Board of LASODA with all disability clusters represented in order to give direction and inclusiveness in the management of the Agency;
“That Mr. Governor should mandate the full and transparent implementation of the Disability Trust Fund as provided for in the SPL with full consultation and involvement of legitimate organizations of persons with disabilities in Lagos State.
“That Mr. Governor should mandate the full compliance by all MDAs with the 1% quota reservation of employment slots for qualified PWDs during recruitment exercise in the State;
“That the Lagos State House of Assembly strengthen its oversight functions to ensure and compel full compliance with the provisions of the SPL; That the Lagos State Judiciary rises up to its responsibility of delivering justice to PWDs in view of protecting their fundamental rights;
“That qualified professionals and specialists in all the disability types be employed and deployed to LASODA with a view to ensuring that concerns of each disability type receive proper and professional attention.
“That the Lagos State Health Insurance Program and other primary health care delivery services be reviewed to mainstream the specific health needs of the various disability types.”
Sharing his recommendation, David Anyaele believes that the Lagos State Government and all its MDAs should familiarize themselves with the provisions of the law so that they can implement their quota.
He frowned against any form of tokenism in addressing disability issues, saying, “the disability law is designed to address the use of charity based approach and to promote the Social and Rights Based Model of Disability, this means I don’t need to know anybody or belong to any political party before I can benefit from the provisions of the law.”
Bolarinwa explained that, “there is a need to have officers who truly understand the challenges of PWDs and are able to proffer workable and pragmatic solutions.
“A lot of capacity building is also required for existing officers within LASODA to ensure full implementation of the law because if implemented, it will be to the advantage of PWDs.”
The NAB Lagos Chairman stressed that, “the disability community, which include JONAPWD and cluster associations, needs to be carried along at all times.
“Significantly, PWDs should be up and doing, we cannot afford to be spectators where we are supposed to be stakeholders, we must work in unity, engage with the government where and when necessary.”